1862  — 1931

Donald MacGillivray

Canadian Presbyterian missionary in China.

MacGillivray’s linguistic and literary skills made him prominent as longtime editor and then general secretary of the Christian Literature Society (CLS), Shanghai (1921-1929). Born on a pioneer farm in Ontario, he graduated with honors from the University of Toronto. In late 1888 he followed Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth to the new north Honan mission field, where he worked for several years. He learned Chinese rapidly and soon became an authority on the language. He took on the task of revising and updating a standard dictionary, and its publication in 1898 established his scholarly credentials. Upon his return to China, after a furlough in Canada (1897-1898), the eminent Timothy Richard asked him to join the CLS.

For the next 30 years MacGillivray was a prolific scholar and a popular writer, translator, and editor. At the same time he continued to revise his dictionary, A Mandarin-Romanized Dictionary of Chinese, which had seven editions through 1925. He was compiler and editor of the volume A Century of Protestant Missions in China (1907) and editor of the first six editions of the China Mission Year Book, 1910-1915. He also wrote dozens of articles for the Chinese Recorder.


This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.


  • Donald MacGillivray, Timothy Richard of China: A Prince in Israel; An appreciation (1920). Margaret H. Brown, MacGillivray of Shanghai (1968); Chinese Recorder 62 (1931): 444-447 (obit.).

About the Author

Daniel H. Bays

Professor of History and Director of the Asian Studies Program, Calvin College.